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scarcely perceptible, but yet affording the springs of vitality to many a plant, which, without its presence, would wither. One advantage is, that the management of a Loan Fund would not require much time and trouble, and as pecuniary contributions are required but once, the plan requires no additional subscriptions for its maintenance. Loan Fund is, perhaps, the cheapest mode extant of doing much good, and if at all generally adopted, would tend to give an impetus to industry of all kinds, and prevent much deprivation and misery. As such we cordially recommend it to our readers, and tender our thanks to Mr. Trench for the efforts he has made towards giving publicity to the scheme.
REVIEW OF BOOKS.
Memoir of Felix Neff, Pastor of the High Alps, and of his labours among the French Protestants of Dauphiné; a Remnant of the Primitive Churches of Gaul, by William Stephen Gilly, D.D. Memorials of Felix Neff, the Alpine Pastor, by T. S. Ellerby,
NOTHING can be a surer proof of a man's merits than to find that he is beyond the rancour of party, and that those who are at issue in all other points, should agree in their estimate of his character; but when we find that even those, who might be supposed to be at variance with such an individual, the first to come forward and attest their admiration of him, we may fairly infer that it was a peculiar excellence of character, and an exalted conduct and conversation that must entitle him to such extraordinary attention. Such has been the case with the individual whose name stands at the head of this page; and we may justly remark, that no character of modern times more fitly deserves the high distinction which has, in this way, been conferred upon him. We hardly know which to admire most, the faithfulness, the devotedness, and the enthusiasm of Neff, or the feelings of Christian liberality, so unusual in these times, which would induce an individual professing different opinions, to give so true, so faithful, and so touching a picture of the labours of another, when those labours apparently spring from a theology which, in some important points, was evidently at variance with his own. There is a high moral to be learnt from this, and one which ought to stimulate our zeal, and arm us against the jealousies and slanders that affect us incessantly in our labours. The good will do us justice, and from our cold ashes may arise the blessed union of the Spirit in the bond of peace, which shall bear testimony to our endeavours in this life, and point us out as beacons on the way to that which is to come, if so be that we have fol lowed our Lord with an humble and ardent heart, and for his exaltation abased ourselves, and for his sake alone have suffered and have died, as was the case with the excellent individual whose exertions find a record in the works before us.
Felix Neff was born in the year 1799, near Geneva, and like many others who have signalized themselves in the moral and intellectual world, was indebted to his widowed mother for the first rudiments of learning, and for those early impressions which more or less influence our future life. When a child, he was the child of enthusiasm,—his joy was to admire nature, springing from her everlasting footstool to the throne of the Most High; and breathing forth, with the difficult air of the mountain tops, holy aspirations and prayers to his Creator. With these were mingled the visions of heroic exploits and scientific research; while a high courage, a meditative disposition, and an inquiring genius, seemed to foretell that he would, one day, be numbered among those who had deserved well of their country. At fourteen, Neff engaged himself to the proprietor of a nursery-ground; and at sixteen he published a little treatise on the culture of trees: but the still life of a gardener would not suit the enterprising genius of Neff; and at seventeen we find him a private in the military service, and two years after a serjeant of artillery: in this office he soon showed that he was not only a soldier of his country, but a soldier of the cross; and his Christian efforts with his comrades were so earnest, that he was advised, as the serious turn of his mind was so strongly marked, to prepare himself for holy orders, which he did by a study of the holy scriptures and by earnest prayer. In 1819, Neff put on his spiritual armour, and officiated as a probationer for two years, in the canton of Neufchâtel, Berne, and the Pays de Vaud. In 1821, he was invited to the assistance of a pastor of Grenoble, in the same capacity as that which he had held among the Swiss cantons; and having remained at Grenoble about six months, his services were requested at Mens, to supply, as far as might be done, the place of an absent pastor. In this situation he had many difficulties with which to contend, besides the cold and heartless Christianity with which he was surrounded, in consequence of that rage for controversy, which made people think more of others' spiritual condition than their own. One of the pastors, under whom he was to act, seldom held any religious conversation with his flock, unless it was to discuss the points between Protestants and Roman Catholics: but this person soon after began to enter most warmly into all Neff's views, subdued by the earnestness which he could not fail to discern in him. The system which Neff pursued at this period of his career, while he had yet no pastoral charge, was to collect as many young persons as he could for purposes of religious instruction: these he called catechumens; and they soon numbered eighty or ninety. But Neff did not confine his labours to Mens, or to its immediate neighbourhood; wherever his presence was required, there he was, be the distance what it might. At this time, and in this department (that of the Isère), there were about eight thousand Protestants scattered over a surface of about eighty miles square, with only three regular pastors to look after them, one of whom was now absent. When his visits were paid in one direction, his services were required in another, and nothing but a frame of iron could have enabled a person of Neff's zeal to encounter the toil which his reputation soon imposed upon him. The following letters give an interesting description of one of his village tours, and of his usual employment:
Yesterday, after the service, I went to Guichadiere, a hamlet three miles from this place, and I returned delighted with my excursion. There are, already, many signs of the seeds springing up among my catechumens. Í was lately accosted by several peasant women, one of whom begged me to give her a copy of the prayer which I had delivered on the previous Sunday before my sermon. I asked her name and residence, and told her to come to me on the following Sunday. She kept to her appointment and I then gave her the prayer, and with it a little tract containing the parable of the ten virgins. These interviews made me desirous of knowing more of her, and I proposed accompanying her some day to her village. Yesterday, Elizabeth and I set out together for her parents' cottage, and as we walked along she told me that many of the young women of the neighbourhood met at appointed times to practise psalm singing, and to read the Bible. Upon reaching the village where she lived, which is charmingly situated in the midst of trees at the foot of a high mountain and on the edge of a torrent, I was most kindly received by her parents; they said they could not themselves go to church, but that their daughter always repeated to them that which she had heard. The old man recounted a history of the persecutions which his own parents and himself had suffered, and he added—‘In those times there was more zeal than there is now; my father and mother used to cross mountains and forests by night in the worst of weather, and at the risk of their lives, to be present at divine service, performed in secret, but now we are grown lazy. Religious freedom is the death-blow to piety.'
In another place Neff has given this beautiful description where he had the satisfaction of seeing much fruit come to perfection :
"These two lovely villages, which are at the foot of Mount Chatel, in a little dell, watered by a charming stream, tapestried with rich verdure, and shaded by a grove of beech trees, had often tempted me to extend my walks from Mens in 1822; they seemed to be the peaceful retreat of true piety; and their humble moss-clad cottages appeared to offer a natural tabernacle for the good shepherd Jesus Christ."
Speaking of his labours, he writes from Mens, May 15, 1822
"Far from having time to write letters, I sometimes can scarcely find time to take my meals. May I say with our Lord-'My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.' From before Easter, I have been visiting all the hamlets and villages of the parish. I have held meetings in nearly every one of them, at each of which there is a good attendance after the labours of the day. When I am in Mens, of an evening, I always give a catechetical lecture or an exposition. Besides this, I have called on all my catechumens in their own communes. The sermons of an evening, and particularly the pharaphrastic explanations, are constantly well attended. Out of seventy-seven catechumens whom I have at present, more than thirty are seriously inclined, fifteen of those seem to be more or less aware of their true condition, and four or five have found peace in Jesus Christ. Since I have been here, and especially of late, God has given me a facility of expressing myself, an energy, and a degree of boldness, at which I am myself astonished, and which they certainly would not endure in Switzerland. With respect to my health, it is much stronger since I have been constantly on the move and making long excursions, although many of these are fatiguing, for it often happens that I go several leagues and perform as many as four or five services in the day, especially on Sundays. I have not unfrequently been thus engaged, instructing and conversing from five o'clock in the morning till eleven at night, and all this without any cough or ailment of the stomach. I have recovered my appetite and can drink wine at my meals without any inconvenience."
Neff's journals contain frequent mention of evening hours spent in the exercise of sacred music, with the catechumens and other young persons. These meetings were always numerously attended; sometimes above a hundred were to be found; and the effects of sacred music was of a kind to stimulate the young Pastor to fresh exertions in this portion of divine worship. But while Neff was winning all hearts by his devotion to their best interests, the return of the minister to Mens, whose place Neff was to supply in part, was not favourable to the progress of improvement in that neighbourhood. Having absented himself for a longer time than the circumstances of his case would justify, a question arose as to his re-instalment. This produced some party feeling; and the clergyman himself, jealous of Neff's influence, and angry with the Consistory for not permitting him to resume his functions, at once raised a cabal against the man whose anxious object had been to feed and to watch the flock during the shepherd's absence. The effect of his ungenerous misrepresentations was painful to Neff; but he did not leave Mens without the consolation of knowing that his labours had been appreciated by many; particularly by M. Blanc, the other pastor of Mens.
Neff had now given proof of his abilities and powers; and took his departure from Mens in April, 1823, with the intention of seeking for the imposition of hands, and of devoting himself to the service of the church; but a difficulty arose as to whom should ordain him. His soul shrank from the principles of the authorities of the national church of Geneva, who, in his opinion, had betrayed the gospel by ceasing to uphold the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the essential doctrines of the Book of Life. Neff therefore determined to come to England, where his name and merits were not entirely unknown: he proceeded to London in the beginning of May; and on the 19th of the same month, received a diploma in Latin, signed by nine ministers, of whom three were doctors in theology, and one a master of arts, and was ordained in a chapel in the Poultry, in London.
Immediately after his ordination, Neff returned to France, where he met with some difficulties from being taken for an English agent. His reception on his return to Mens, would have been felt like a triumphal entrance to any but a person of his meek and unassuming spirit. The inhabitants left their shops and their husbandry to meet him they crowded around him: some half stifled him with their embraces; and all signified the sincerity of their affection and respect.
But the cabals, already mentioned, rendered it impossible for Neff to remain either at Mens or its immediate neighbourhood; and he was anxious to be stationed on the high Alps, where, like the eagle, he might have the liberty so congenial to his soul; and at length his ardent wishes were gratified; and while he was staying at Grenoble, in 1823, he received intelligence that the elders of the Protestant churches of Val Queyras and Val Fressinière had made application to the Consistory in his behalf; and in a few days he was on the scene of his future labours. To Fressinière he first directed his steps; next to Guillestre; and lost no time in traversing the formidable pass that leads to Arvieux. Here all his enthusiasm was called into action by
officiating in a church which had recently been constructed on the ruins of that which was destroyed at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. At La Chalp, a hamlet of Arvieux, they shewed him a new cottage, which was just finished for the residence of the expected minister; and four leagues further to the east, he found himself at San Veran, on the frontiers of France and Italy, and at the foot of a snowy ridge, which is the boundary line between the French Alpine valleys and those of Piedmont.
Here, amid all the grandeur and all the terror of alpine sceneryamong the roarings of the cataracts, or the dreadful thunders of the avalanche was it Neff's privilege to preach Christ crucified, and to herald the glad tidings of salvation to the poor benighted mountaineers. In the valley of Fressinière, there are two Protestant churches, those of Violins and Dormilleuse; and in the commune of Champsaur, there is a church at St. Laurent. Sixty miles of rugged road must be trodden before the pastor, whose residence is at La Chalp, beyond Arvieux, can perform his duties at Champsaur. Thus, when that the pastor had fixed his abode at the house which is provided for him at La Chalp, in the commune of Arvieux, he has a journey of twelve miles before he can reach the scene of his labours in a westerly direction, and sixty before he can arrive at it in the opposite quarter; he has also a distance of twenty miles towards the south, and thirty-three towards the north, when his services are required by the little flocks at Vars and La Grave, and that over the ice of desolate mountains, or the mazes of perilous valleys: not here, as in the more smiling valleys of Piedmont, which form, as it were, a garden; but among sombre and frowning rocks, and tremendous abysses, and thick mists, and clouds, and cold.
Such was the scene Divine Providence marked out for the labours of Neff; and here, unappalled by the physical difficulties of the country, or by the ignorance and benighted state of the various folds of which he was the common pastor, did Neff enter upon his charge. He established himself at La Chalp on the 16th of January, 1824, and on the Monday following we find him a second time within four days encountering the fearful pass of the Guil, and on the evening of the same day looking after his little flock at Vars, twenty miles from Arvieux. He remained at Vars on the Tuesday, and part of the Wednesday, organizing little associations for mutual instruction during his absence: on Thursday and Friday in the same week, at his post again at Arvieux, La Chalp, and Brunichard, chatechising the children, and making himself acquainted with his people and on Saturday, in spite of a fall of snow, and a storm of wind which swept the valley, he directed his steps towards San Veran, that he might take the earliest opportunity of administering the public Sunday service in the church which was situate in the furthermost western boundary of his parish, twelve miles from his head quarters.
"The snow," says his journal, 66 was from seven to eight inches; and the wind, which blew a hurricane, raised and tossed it about in clouds. Not a trace could be seen of the paths, and I was six hours performing twelve miles. But this was the only bad journey I made in the Alps; and notwithstanding